Friday, December 17, 2021



The owl swiveled its head

and looked at me

from the shelf inside the cabin

in the light of my flashlight.

A small owl from the woods

had come in the window

while I was gone.

I grabbed a down filled jacket

and cast it around the bird's body,

picking it up and carrying it out to the porch.

It didn't struggle

or try to bite me.  I could feel

how light it was, the down

of its small bony body

and its hot featheredness.

I could feel the swiveling of its head

and the beating of its owl's heart.

Then I tossed it up in a motion

that seemed to go right to my toes,

I felt I could fly from the porch

as the owl took off, its wings spreading

into something large as an overcoat,

pulling me out of myself

so I could fly

for a moment in the dark.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Everything Looks Different From The Air

James Ward Robertson, born in 1913, combined his love of flying and photography to record both beauty and commerce on the Southern Oregon coast during the last half of the twentieth century.

In “Everything Looks Different from the Air,” author and editor Barbara Robertson Drake shares insights into her father’s life story and tells us some of the experiences that led him to create his work. Beaches, waterways, and bridges; life extending from Coos Bay and along the coast; massive ships serving worldwide trade; fishing boats, lumber mills, and logging; the first community college in Oregon—they are all here in the photographer’s eye. 

Much has changed since these pictures were taken but they also reveal the lasting character of a unique landscape. The inspiring collection stands as testimony to an artist’s eye and the ordinary, breathtaking dreamscape of the visible world.

Drake’s non-fiction books Peace at Heart and Morning Light, from Oregon State University Press, were both finalists for the Oregon Book Awards. She has also published collections of poetry, textbooks, and other writing.

Over 175 color and B&W photos
Choose Add to Cart to buy a signed copy from the author for $29 + $5 shipping
Or purchase from

Photos copyright estate of J Ward Robertson

South-facing flying view of the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve at low tide. The Cape Arago highway crosses the South Slough Bridge here in Charleston. This old bridge was replaced in 1991. A glimpse of boats in the marina, lower right.

Dunes, north spit of Coos Bay. They look like whipped cream from this height

Downtown Coos Bay. Look for the Tioga Hotel and other landmark buildings in this photograph and others to orient to the landscape. Images of boats, trains, and log rafts on the waterfront show different activities and changes before the development of the waterfront with the current visitor’s center, displays, and boardwalk. This picture was taken after Central Avenue, which once led directly out of town, was divided between Commercial and Anderson Streets by a new Coos Bay Police Department building on Central, the long building near center in this picture.

Aerial of Coos Head Timber Company plywood, sawmill and stud mill at Eastside.

Firefighters going to work.

This is the Rogue above the bridge at Gold Beach. I wouldn't have known but my dad noted the location on the back of the photo. Probably 60's or early 70's. I'm guessing those people on sand and boats had gotten word that the salmon were running.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Everything Really Does Look Different

 I am publishing a book of my father's photographs of the southern Oregon coast, "Everything Looks Different from the Air."  Most of them are aerial photos.  This is the cover photo, taken as he was flying his Piper J3 with one hand and taking the picture with the other.  (He would remove the door before he took off to get a better view.) 

The new Dune movie has focused attention on the amazing Oregon dunes (between Florence and Coos Bay) which are said to have inspired Frank Herbert's novel, so our dunes are getting some attention.  

My dad loved the area and took many aerial dune photos, some included in the book along with other photos from Reedsport to Brookings.  If you are a fan of Oregon's south coast or simply love beautiful aerial photography and would be interested in the book, send me a message and I will let you know when the book is available, probably mid November.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"Driving One Hundred" in Oregonian Q&A

The Oregonian newspaper has a nice Q&A column with me on my book of poetry "Driving One Hundred."

Here's an excerpt:
In three parts, the book moves chronologically through recollections of childhood and young adulthood, arriving in present-day. Steeped in experiences, the poems are unreservedly linked to those of Drake and her particular perspective. Still, the poems don't operate strictly from a singular view: Drake takes subtle care to nod to a kind of compound-I. For examples, she carefully aims to understand a cat's comfort in the hen house, recognize the odd companionship of insomnia, and balance the persistence of life with the inevitability of death.

[Q:]The poems in "Driving One Hundred" reveal an affection for both sides of an argument -- they love the cranky, complicated world. But most are written from a single perspective whose speaker seems to be you, Barbara Drake. What is the power of "I"? What are its pitfalls?

[A:]I come from a sociable and storytelling family, and I think that's what the "I" in my poetry is about. Something happens and you've got to tell someone about it.